The sense and nonsense of dry runs

Just as I have done for the past 10 years, I spent the last week of February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Four long days in a row representing my company, talking to customers, demonstrating exciting new technologies, and telling the same story ad infinitum. To my feeling, at least a few hundred times.

The team started with the preparation of this monster event (see the list of earlier blog posts that I have written about MWC at the bottom of this page) months ago. We invested hours and hours in creating our pitch, elaborating our story, and preparing our demo. We built message houses, crafted storyboards and wrote scenarios. And we went through many dry run sessions.

After having returned from Barcelona, I can only observe and conclude that what I told the booth visitors on day 4 was completely different from the story we prepared for day 1, and from what we had rehearsed so many times. Actually, each time I gave our demo, my narrative sounded more balanced and seemed to be much more appreciated by the audience. So, why didn’t we think of this particular detail or include that specific use case already months ago? Well, because repeating your story in front of a real-life audience is so much different from rehearsing it in front of your direct colleagues or giving a virtual sales briefing via a conference call. Each time I presented the demo – live! – to yet another customer group the messaging became more stable, more fluent and more sophisticated. Yes, I’m the guy on the picture below with the blue Nokia shirt and the (high-tech, though silly looking) brainwave-sensing headband. While delivering my pitch, I discovered what worked and what didn’t. Being able to experience the body language and getting feedback signals from your listeners at a meter’s distance is what really made – and makes – the difference. It’s really not about what you prepared or rehearsed, but about how you deliver your story. And about how your customers react to it. And about the face-to-face Q&A and discussions you have with them afterwards.

So, what’s the use of going through a long preparation and rehearsal process and what’s the sense of doing dry-runs, if after only one day at the Fira you’re delivering a completely different and better demo than the one you arranged for? And is all this preparation effort then really a waste of time?

Certainly not. Any good public speech starts with knowing your audience, defining your pitch, building your storyboard, and creating your presentation. I’ve explained this in my post about the 3 p’s of a professional public presenter. All this upfront activity is useful, needed and necessary. But, at the end of the day the proof of the pudding is in the eating – by the people who came to your booth. And their reactions on our latest Barcelona demo have been great!

Here are the links to other posts I have published during, after or about the Mobile World Congress: